Sunday, October 10, 2010

What's in a name?

  I was talking to my Mom the other day and I was sharing how a couple of the players in my gaming group had left the group to do other things. Her comment was "Perhaps they finally grew up" and that struck me as being really unfair to the hobby of RPGing. That comment was interesting because it tells me that she thinks that RPGing is something that only Kids do, that Adults have "Adult" hobbies. Knowing the kind of hobbies my mom has had through the years, I find it funny to think that if I was building Dollhouse miniatures that she would be better with that than my playing RPGs.

  Later, I was reading and posting on the Hero System forums. The thread was an amusing one "DM Says / DM Means"   I expressed my dislike of the term Dungeon Master being used in games outside of Dungeons and Dragons. My preference being the more generic Game Master (or GM). I started to think about it and about how childish both terms sound when said aloud. Also I started to think about how perhaps the language we use in our games influence how we and our players perceive the game.

  With this epiphany I finally stared to understand why many rules lite RPGs change some of the gaming jargon that we have been using for years. Suddenly being a Storyteller didn't sound quite a pretentious, mostly because that is what most GM's do. They tell interactive stories. They setup the Plot, Antagonists, Supporting Characters, the feel of the world, everything but the Protagonists (aka the Player Characters). Sometimes GM's forget that they are presenting an INTERACTIVE story, that the PC's are the Main characters of the game. Perhaps if those GM/DM's saw themselves as a "Storyteller" or "Adventure Host" that there might be less bad GM's.

How different are games that are run by Storytellers and who has a Troupe for players? I really don't know, I imagine that the grass is greener on the otherside of the fence. I have to imagine because I prefer one the of the more rules heavy games out there Hero System AKA Champions. Now Hero is no where near as complex as people assume that it is. Being an old School Universal system, it carries baggage from it's early days as a Super Roleplaying game.

I guess my other contention is that some of those old school terms (ie GM/DM) lead others to perceive this as a childish game. Is it time for our hobby to grow up a bit and try to go beyond those adolescent power fantasies? If so, how do we do this and not change the games we love into something that isn't fun anymore. Perhaps this is something that my generation of gamers can't change. That it's something that the next generation or the one after that will change.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why Fantasy Steampunk

                I am sure that my players are wondering about this question as they are working on characters.

As I was thinking about what to run I had a number or Criteria that I had to keep in mind. 1) Keep the genre easy for new players to understand so I gain player buy in of the campaign concepts. 2) To have something that could be run at short notice. 3) To be something both familiar and alien at the same time.  4) To have something that another GM could step into and run a decent game without long briefings being required.

Our group just ended a longish and fun Fantasy Hero game that left me both feeling good about how it ended, but also sad because it ended. This caused a bit of apathy toward running any fantasy game. I started to work on a SciFi campaign that was/is to be a fusion of StarWars, Serenity/Firefly, and Traveller. It became clear to me that it was going to take me too long to get that game together to run. Also SciFi games don’t appeal to all gamers. So I started to think about another game to run. My next idea was to run a slightly modified (translated to Hero) version of Ral Talsorian’s Castle Falkenstein. It was the first Steampunk that I had encountered and played. I like some of the concepts of the game, but gaming in 19th century Europe never interested me. I always wanted to run Castle Falkenstein in America with an old West feel. So I took that idea and ran with it.

                I decided that players would probably have an easier time dealing with non-humans that they were confortable with, and not the Mythological Faerie. So I just decided that D&D style (Tolkein) Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, and Halflings lived in Europe and had mostly integrated themselves into the Human Countries/Kingdoms. That some of the fantasy races had already colonized the Americas during their diaspora (going to the west as Tolkein’s elves did). So there would be Fantasy races that were fully integrated into human society, and ones already living in the Americas to contrast against. The races here would be living in harmony with the native American Humans. So the Native Elves, Orcs, etc would also be in conflict with the European settlers who have been around for the last 100years. Some of them would be fighting along side of the Native American tribes who are trying to be left alone.

                Another difference is the fact that Magic works. Big spells like Fireballs and other D&D staples. I am thinking that those spells are only castable by a small minority of people. This small minority along with the power of firearms being the reason that casters didn’t dominate warfare. I am thinking that the rarity will be along the lines of everyone knows of an individual in town that can cast some sort of minor spell. People who can cast large spells are few and far between. There are also denominations of the Christian Faiths that see magics as a gift from god and can cast devine spells like healing and blessings. Though only the most pious and gifted can do so. The non-christian gods of the Native Americans and Non-Humans can also grand healing spells. etc.

                So far I have decided that History has gone the pretty much the same. I am thinking about some little changes to history. Not enough to be really different, but big enough that it would need some sort of explanation. As I am still deciding on things like a Elvish American territory that is east of the Mississippi. A piece of land that is carved out of parts  4 or more states that are forested areas. I also have to decide what this heavily protected bit of forest would have done to the US Civil War and how it was fought.

                So hopefully something will grab my players and we will be able to have a fun game.